Estimating Software for the Rail industry

Best-of-breed VERSUS all-in-one business solution – which approach is best and why?

Consumers and businesses are being inundated with more and more choice these days.  We all know the reasons why and when a Company comes to researching and selecting a new a business solution(s), this aspect of today’s business world can cause various challenges. 

One particular challenge for businesses in this quest is whether to select:

  1. an all-in-one solution, or
  2. to adopt a “best-of-breed” approach.

In this blog post I hope to shed some light on some of the pros and cons of each approach to help you select a way forward that is right for your business.

Some of the pros and cons of each approach

Pros and cons of best of breed versus all in one solution

Notes about table above:

^ With a best-of-breed approach you have the option to implement individual systems one at a time. This reduces cost, helps with cash flow and helps minimise risk as well.

* Integration – the table above suggests that all in one solutions have tighter integration.  But this is not always so.   I have personally experienced this with our own systems we have implemented and also directly with customers; some customers have gone down the all in one solution approach, only to come back to me 6 months later saying that the modules do not integrate that well (and generally that the estimating module does not do the job).  Sometimes these larger all in one solutions result from larger companies buying smaller best of breed solutions too and bolting them together – with software this doesn’t always work.  I will be talking more about integration in a future blog article.

Other key things to consider:

  1. What is most important for your Company at this point in time?
  2. What your Company is capable of implementing at this point in time?
  3. The economic environment
  4. Your company culture – how will it react to change; bigger systems cause bigger change management issues
  5. Your budget, and
  6. Your company’s strategic direction.

What this means for you Estimators out there

Quite often when dealing with new customers I have seen Management pushing for a single solution whereas the end-users want to make sure it covers “their patch of turf”.  If you are an Estimator and if you have unique and/or intensive estimating needs you want to make sure the estimating solution you use has the functionality, flexibility and power that you need to produce accurate Quotes quickly and with confidence (something also in the Company’s interest).

Adopting an 80/20 approach

The approach we have taken in our business relates to the good old 80/20 principle.  80% of our overall solution is one system which relates to a core part of our business and one that has most end-users being customer management.  The remaining 20% of systems are niche systems where we need highly specialised tools for critical areas of our business and/or ones where integration is not a major need or simply not needed at all (sometimes when you workshop integration and look at what you really need to integrate, it does not always deliver a cost benefit).

Why can’t a software company develop an all in one solution that does everything really well you ask? 

I have been asked this question a lot over the years… personally I think this is a very difficult task unless it is a highly focused tool aimed only at one industry and possibly at a particular size of company.  Software by it’s nature needs business rules to be implemented at the design stage.  It’s like designing and building a house, you design it with parameters and specifications in mind.  If those parameters don’t take into account every nuance it may “fall down” in one or more areas; similarly after a house is built if you try and re-work it to suit modified specifications you are always fighting a tough battle and sometimes it may be easier and cheaper to start again.  The same principles apply to software.

 

I hope you found this article interesting and has given you some information to assist you if you are considering this in your business.  Watch out soon for a related article on integration and why it isn’t as scary as you may think…